Monday, December 24, 2007

Big names for Kiwi Bluesfest

The Coromandel peninsula will host a major international blues music festival for the next three years.

Promoter Manolo Echave said up to 12,000 music fans were expected to attend Bluesfest NZ, to be held for the first time on March 22, 2008, at Dakota Fields, Moewai Rd, off SH25 near Whitianga.

It is connected to the highly rated Australian annual East Coast International Blues and Roots Music Festival (also known as Byron Bay Bluesfest), the West Coast Blues and Roots Festival in Western Australia, Point Nepean A Music Experience (Victoria) and Southern Roots (Tasmania).

Louisiana-born blues veteran and Rock'n'Roll Hall of Famer Buddy Guy, 71, is the headline act booked for Bluesfest NZ, which will also feature Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall, Californian guitarist Keb Mo and, most surprisingly, Ian Brown, the former singer for iconic 1980s British rock band The Stone Roses. Chicago-based Wilco, led by Jeff Tweedy, is the other international act announced so far.

New Zealand acts confirmed on the bill are soul/jazz diva Hollie Smith and bands Little Bushman, Pluto and The Checks.

In previous years acts performing at the Byron Bay event have played dates in Auckland, but this is the first time there has been a definitive link to the Australian festivals.

"It's taken three years to persuade Australia to include New Zealand on the tour," Echave said.

"Our proposal was to start this year with conservative crowd, one-day event with the aim of establishing a blues festival in NZ."

Echave said the festival was confirmed for three years, and would feature two stages.

"It's great news for our region. Let's hope we can keep it down here."

The event has the same venue as the New Year's Eve event Mercury Rising, and a second line-up announcement is expected near the end of January. Other artists confirmed for the Australian festivals include Sinead O'Connor, Keith Urban, Xavier Rudd and John Fogerty (formerly of Creedence Clearwater Revival).

It will be the first visit to New Zealand for both Guy and Tunstall, and Echave said one or two major international acts were set to be announced, "but we're pretty close to knowing what the final line-up is".

Echave said the site was owned by the Thames Coromandel District Council, which bought the property so it could be used as a recreational facility. Echave said one of the major bonuses of the site was its proximity to the centre of the holiday resort town.

General admission tickets, which go on sale in January, will be $100 each.

"If you look at the quality and calibre of the artists, it's a pretty economical package when you include the eight internationals," said Echave.

Peter Noble, director of the Australian festivals, spends six months every year seeing all artists perform before booking them for the series.

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